The 49ers' path to an 0-5 start can be summed up in one phrase.
Potential trademark infringement with San Francisco's baseball team prevents us from exclaiming: "49ers football: Torture."
Instead, try: "49ers football: Turnovers."
That is why the focus of so much angst is on ever embattled quarterback Alex Smith, a turnover machine. And that is why coach Mike Singletary came so close to benching him in Sunday night's 27-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
If a quarterback change means a reversal in turnover misfortune, bring it on, although the 49ers still would be littered with myriad issues.
Their dysfunction was on full display for a prime-time national television audience, and the eye-popping, Singletary-Smith sideline summit stole the spotlight. They are the lightning rods for criticism in this winless start, and deservedly so.
But the real crisis unfolded repeatedly on the playing field -- specifically in the form of five turnovers against the Eagles, who simply are a better team, as is every other opponent that has beaten the 49ers this season.
The 49ers' have an astonishing total of 15 turnovers through five games. On the flip side, the 49ers have forced only five turnovers.
You can't win with a minus-10 turnover differential. You also can't win with dumb penalties, blown tackles and false confidence.
The last time the 49ers were a playoff team -- in 2002 -- then-coach Steve Mariucci
How much are turnovers hurting the modern-day misfits?
"Tremendous. That's the pinnacle of it," linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "Sometimes I feel it ain't even about the other team. The turnovers, we're killing ourselves.
"The next question you'll ask me is how do we handle that. Trust me, if I knew, we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now. So I don't know, go take a survey or something."
Let's survey the crowd of 69,732. Judging from multiple torrents of boos, Smith is to blame, and he is to an extent.
Smith has nine interceptions this season, including two on Sunday night. His last one ended a last-gasp rally in the final minute, and it came partly because rookie right tackle Anthony Davis couldn't sustain his block.
Singletary is extremely misguided, if the only reason he dared to bench Smith was to see how Smith would respond. Instead, Singletary needed to stick to his guns and realize why he nearly sent David Carr into the game, and that reason being Smith's penchant for turnovers among a very young offense.
Like Smith, running back Frank Gore is six years into his career, so he knows he is a major contributor to this turnover crisis. He fumbled twice. On top of that, he had a puny 2.9 yards-per-carry average, with 18 carries for 52 yards.
"You can't win with a lot of turnovers," second-year wide receiver Michael Crabtree said. "Ball security, that's a big thing. It seems we have problems with ball security every game."
It also seems the 49ers lose every game. And they do.
"It's embarrassing," Spikes said.
Thanks to the defense, the 49ers had a fighting chance until the familiarly bitter end.
But that defense is not helping the cause, if it cannot make interceptions or force fumbles.
"We just have to make them happen more," said linebacker Manny Lawson, who stripped quarterback Kevin Kolb for the Eagles' lone turnover.
"If you look at the stats, the more turnovers you have, the less of a chance you have of winning the game. That's a fact," Singletary said. "So the thing that we knew we could not do was turn over the ball. But yet, we did it."
And they do it each week, with or without a national television audience to see how maligned they are.
Contact Cam Inman at email@example.com.